Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More opting out

In the news this morning, more people are seeking organ donation opt-out forms since the organ "robbery" incident some weeks back. I myself have sent in my opt-out form a week ago.

Meanwhile a relative of the Sim family involved has provided some information to this blogger on police behaviour during the incident. It doesn't surprise me considering what i saw first hand at Hong Lim Park.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Foreign undergrads' English not up to par

This is rare but a HR manager pointed out the obvious in his letter to the papers.

Feb 21, 2007
Foreign undergrads' English not up to par

AS A human resource practitioner for more than 10 years, I have interviewed a number of foreign undergraduates from our local universities for part-time employment. Their command of our working language, which is English, is not up to my expectations of an undergraduate studying in an institution that teaches in English.

I have also had feedback from Singaporean graduates that they had trouble understanding what their foreign counterparts said during presentations at university.

Why is this so if these foreign students passed their English Language (EL) tests before admission to local universities? Are the minimum EL standards set by our universities too low for admission of international students?

At the National University of Singapore, if a foreign student applies for undergraduate admission, the minimum EL requirement is a C6 in O-level English or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of six. However, for Singaporean students, a pass in General Paper (GP) at AO level is the minimum requirement.

Why do local students need a pass in GP if an O-level English standard is sufficient for admission to local universities?

Many foreign students are offered permanent residence in Singapore once they secure a permanent job within a certain period after completing their degree. What is worrying is whether they have a competent grasp of English to function professionally in a mostly English-speaking work environment, given the minimum EL standard set for university entry.

Australian universities are thinking of pushing their EL requirement higher. Should our tertiary institutions do the same?

Rick Lim Say Kiong

Where I am studying now, doing a private degree. More than half of my class are foreigners from China, India, Vietnam and so on. And it is true their English simply cannot make it. The Indians fare better but their accent are so thick and I can see even the lecturers have trouble understanding. Class participation becomes a joke.. The SGians naturally are the most vocal ones and contribute to class participation.

It is true the gahment wants to attract foreigners to study here, and are desperate to make money from education. But along the way standards are diluted. The foreigners also do not integrate. Not all are like that of course but majority keep to their own circles. Sometimes when I go for lessons I feel like a foreigner in a foreign country.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Indian FT conman let off!

Why is this man so happy? Because it pays to be a foreigner in Sillypore, that's why! (Even when you fake your credentials)

Feb 17, 2007
MD who lied about degree let off with fine
MBA from India, but he claimed in EP application it was from US varsity
By K.C. Vijayan

COMPANY managing director Mahesh Narayan, who lied several times that he had a degree from a top US university, was originally facing up to five years in jail and a possible $20,000 fine. But he was yesterday let off with a $6,000 penalty after pleading guilty to two of the five charges.

Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, arguing for Narayan, said he had been hired for his work experience and not his degree, and that where the degree was actually obtained from did not result in any loss to his employers.

The prosecution also did not press for a jail term.

Why not? Double standards??

Contacted by The Straits Times after sentencing yesterday, Narayan said: 'The judicial process has been very fair and I am just relieved it is finally over.'

Narayan, who heads a business management and consultancy firm here, said: 'Our projects are here, and our commitments, both personal and professional, are here, too.'

Is he threatening to take his business somewhere else if he is handed a heavier sentence??

Asked repeatedly why he lied, the Indian national declined to answer.

Why didn't the prosecution follow up?? Note that Narayan was not even remorseful or the slightest sorry for lying.

He was accused of falsely stating, since 2000, in his Employment Pass (EP) applications to the Ministry of Manpower that he had a master's in business administration from Syracuse University.

He does have an MBA - but from Osmania University in southern India.

But this lie would have made no difference to MOM or the firms which hired Narayan, argued Mr Jeyaretnam.

He pointed out that three of his employers had emphasised his 'work experience and exposure' in justifying his employment. In April 2000, MTV Asia - where Narayan worked as a consultant - cited his 'extensive consultancy experience and in-depth knowledge of the television broadcast business in Asia' in its supporting letter.

Moreover, the MOM did not insist on seeing his educational certificates, claimed Mr Jeyaretnam, saying that this shows 'that the particular educational institution from which Mr Narayan obtained his MBA was not decisive or even especially material to MOM'.

District Judge Toh Yung Cheong - noting that there were no forged documents and that the prosecution did not ask for a jail term - imposed a $3,000 fine on each of the two charges Narayan pleaded guilty to.

The other three charges were taken into consideration. Each of the five charges carried a fine of up to $4,000 or a maximum jail term of one year, or both......

Narayan's case is different from others of a similar nature, said Mr Jeyaretnam, because he did not actually submit a forged certificate.

In January 2005, South Korean sales manager Kang Seong Yong, 40, was jailed for two months for lying that he had a university degree, which was key to him getting a job.

A total of 68 people were convicted each year in 2002 and 2003 for falsely declaring their educational qualifications.

The defence lawyer did a good job and make the offence sounds like a trivial one. The judge obviously agrees and the punishment is a gentle tap on the wrist of the conman. However if everything is as inconsequential as it looks, why even bother to prosecute him in the first place? Why waste everyone's time? Why have a law on such offences in the first place? If "this lie would have made no difference to MOM or the firms which hired Narayan" then why is Narayan being charged in court in the first place? This is a contradiction. And who exposed him? I guess we are not seeing the full picture.

Friday, February 16, 2007


saw this pic in a forum..
its juvenile but so what? funny can liao hehehe

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Organ robbery?

I am generally disappointed with my fellow countrymen. The election last year said it all. Despite the countless "broken promises" and "u-turns", 66.6% remain idiots. And the PAP gahmen just continues to push its luck, 得寸进尺. It is testing our OB markers, see how far Sgians can tahan.

The news story about the "organ robbery" saddens me further. This blogger has the details...

But what can i do to protest against this system? I am not as courageous as Chee Soon Juan and let myself get arrested, fined and jailed. I can't migrate bcos i got no money. And soon they will call me up for reservist. In the short term I am stuck here and there is nothing i can do about it. Most of all I am disappointed with myself.

But i am going to do one thing next week. I am going to opt out. My organs are not going to benefit any 66.6 Sgians, PRs, foreigners or PAP dogs. They say if you opt out, next time if you kena any problem yourself and need organ transplants, you will not be on the waiting list. In other words you are as good as dead if you disagree with the gahmen's opt in policy. This is a threat.

And if there is one thing i can do, that will be refusing to yield to this threat. So i am going to opt out. Who wants to live forever? Not me. When my time is up, just go... like the wacko in Prison Break who just wanted to go to Holland. In the end he jumped. The world is fucked anyway.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dr Lee Wei Ling vs Philip Yeo

While i may seem harsh on Dr Lee in my previous entry, the truth is i listen to the message and not the messenger. Today Dr Lee gets my support for her stand in her "feud" with Philip Yeo in the current Biomed debate that is getting Yeo all riled up and making all sorts of uncalled for remarks against her which has led to some stinging response from Dr Lee herself. Yeo has the support of an ex-SAF general and heavy weight PAP minister Tony Tan no less. But Dr Lee is a member of the untouchable family, the daughter of LKY.

Under Dr Lee's microscope
Letter from Associate Professor Lee Wei Ling
Director, National Neuroscience Institute

THE official stance by the Government is that there is nothing wrong with its biomedical research strategy. It justifies that it is on the right track by the fact that the biomedical sector now makes up a quarter of Singapore's Gross Domestic Product generated by manufacturing.

Output by Singapore's drug factories jumped by over a third last year, pushing overall biomedical production up by 30.2 per cent. This robust growth puts biomedical output at a record $23 billion, almost four times the production in 2000. More than 90 per cent comes from pharmaceuticals, with the rest from the medical technology sector.

To attribute the investment by biomedical companies in Singapore to our multi-billion dollar research drive is inaccurate. Numerous news agencies and newspapers have reported the reasons why these biomedical companies decided to set up in Singapore. The generous help from the Singapore Government, the strict enforcement of intellectual-property (IP) laws, proximity to new major markets in Asia, Singapore's efficiency, educated workforce and English-speaking environment are the incentives for investing in Singapore.

Singapore's own huge biomedical research initiative is not an important consideration, except in the few cases where the pharmaceutical companies have joint research ventures with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) or the Biopolis. This is not surprising. Research groups doing similar research are all competing with each other to make breakthroughs — only then do they get the IP rights. So, how would having competing groups in Singapore be an incentive for biomedical companies to come and set up shop here?

Mr Philip Yeo described me as "a voice in the wilderness", noting that I have not been in the Biopolis. But I have received more fanmail than I can remember from Singapore doctors and researchers, thanking me for pointing out the obvious mistake in the way the biomedical drive has been carried out.

I would challenge that, having never practised as a doctor, Mr Yeo is strategising about biomedical research directions in an ivory tower. He has been very successful in selling Singapore in the past, but biomedical research is a different ball game. The fact that he dismisses the importance of Hepatitis B and head injury shows how out of touch he is with reality.

Yes, Singapore is immunising its children against Hepatitis B, but immunisation does not help someone who is already a carrier for the Hepatitis B virus. What is more significant is that 5 per cent of all ethnic Chinese are Hepatitis B carriers.

Head injury is the major cause of disability in children and economically-productive adults. The cost to the patients' families and to society equals, if not exceeds, that of cancer. Head injury is not particular to Singapore, but it is an area where not many research centres have chosen to concentrate on. At the National Neuroscience Institute, we have a good research track record and will continue to pursue this area of research.

Lieutenant-General (NS) Lim Chuan Poh said "you have to give it time to show success. Some of these things cannot be done in a matter of three or five years; we are going to stay the course".

If A*Star believes this, why did it sign an agreement with Johns Hopkins that had a five year timeline?

In fact, Professor William Brody from The Johns Hopkins University alluded to this when he was asked about biomedical research in Singapore. Prof Brody also pointed out the fact "that research is not linear, or predictable — it's unpredictable".

Can Singapore afford to continue to pour in huge sums of money for 10 or 20 years in the hope of eventually yielding results, yet knowing that there is no certainty of success?

Lt-Gen Lim goes on to ask: "Why must it be that Singaporeans cannot be world-beaters?" My answer to that is: Singaporeans can be world-beaters — if Singapore has the appropriate research strategy and concentrates effort and resources on the areas where we have a competitive advantage. The Singapore Olympic Council seems to understand this simple concept which escapes the highly intellectual officials determining the direction of Singapore's research strategy.

A*Star dismissed any suggestion that the Government might be rethinking its strategy to develop the biomedical research sector. However, Dr Tony Tan seems more open-minded about this issue. Dr Tan, who is the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council's deputy chairman, said he was sure the biomedical science executive committee will consider all input: "If there is any change in direction or emphasis necessary, I'm confident they will take the appropriate action."

In the same article where he was featured opening the new National University of Singapore Centre for Life Sciences, it was reported that "several cancers, the ones more common in Singapore and the region, will be put under the microscope". This is in line with the concept of niche areas that I have been advocating.

From my feeble knowledge of economics in JC, it seems that Tony Tan's use of GDP to proclaim Biomed a success is misleading. (What's wrong with him anyway? I would think he should do some homework after making that classic remark about Sg workers costs more than American and Australian workers)

The components of GDP, which comprise of investments, private consumption and net exports, does not take into account R&D. The KPI for R&D should be patents and breakthroughs. To date the Biomed has failed in this aspect which was what led to the termination of the tie-up with American John Hopkins after just 5 years. There was a big public relation exercise by Philip Yeo when the tie-up ended some 2 years ago. So for Philip Yeo and gang to now proclaim that "research needs more time" (10 to 15 years) sounds like going against their own justifications in ending the John Hopkins venture. Their position in this saga is riddled with u-turns and flip flops. I wonder if they realise it themselves.

Billions poured into Biomed may not be recoverable. But is it too late or too costly to change track now? Perhaps this is the reason why Yeo and gang is standing their ground. But why then is high-flying Yeo (mostly self-proclaimed) jumping ship to let an unproven and untested SAF general take over? That to me is a clear sign of abandoning ship, a standard SAF procedure to protect their prized officers and scholars.

I think observers may point out that perhaps Dr Lee has a hidden agenda here. Perhaps she is so vocal now becos she hopes that research money go into areas under her purview. Of course this is just speculation. But i won't be surprised this will be what the Yeo camp will suggest in the days to come in their counter-offensive. Yeo has been very defensive and exceedingly arrogant and rude in his remarks so far. When one deals with a monstrosity like the SAF or someone with ego so big that it blocks out the sun and blinds him from reality, for sure they are not going to lie down without a fight even if it means dragging the whole ship down with them.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dr Lee on organ trading

A few weeks ago the ST printed some letters about supporting organ trading. Personally I am against it. Mainly because of the potential abuse and profiteering it can lead to. Besides who is going to look after the organ trade? The gahment? MOH?? Haha they have already failed with NKF, so what makes anyone think they can handle something that is as murky (and lucrative) as organ trading. In fact i think they will have problems with the casino... but i digress.

Today Dr Lee, a proponent for organ trading, has this to say.

Feb 6, 2007
An organ is no different from a life-saving drug

THE debate about allowing the sale of organs has revealed an amusing aspect of human nature: 'If my welfare is not compromised, I can afford to espouse the politically correct view', human organs are sacred and should not be traded like a commodity.

Hmm I find her tone a bit hao lian leh...

However, the cold reality is that there are people suffering and dying because no organ is available in Singapore. These patients do not think it wrong that they buy an organ.

A similar situation is where pharmaceutical companies require strong laws upholding their patents to survive and make a profit. This is a major incentive for them to set up factories and do

R & D in Singapore. They spend millions, and sometimes billions, to create new drugs. Patents allow them to make back their money. Otherwise, new cures may not be found.

On the other hand, the patients who can benefit from but cannot afford these new drugs which are still protected by patents rant, rave and, in certain countries, riot because they feel their health is more important than economic justice.

But organ trading is in fact very different from a drug. It is just harvesting instead of creating, manufacturing or finding a cure.

I suggest that we be cool- headedly but compassionately logical. What makes an organ more sacred than a medical device or medicine that can save a life? The supplier of the organ or the pharmaceutical company producing the new drug must be appropriately remunerated or there would be no incentive to part with the organ or undertake the R & D required to produce a safe and effective drug.

She seems to be saying that those who disagree are illogical and not cool-headed or compassionate.. wah lao eh...

Whether the public and patients like it or not, these are the facts. Everyone stands to lose if we choose to ignore these facts and use arbitrary moral arguments to support a certain stance and enforce the illogical stance by law.

Assoc Prof Lee Wei Ling

While she talk about facts, she completely or conveniently ignored the arguments and points of views from the other side. What about the perils and potential loopholes if organ trading is legalised? She should at least address those views if she is so passionate about her cause. But instead she just keep drilling into her own points and bulldoze them across. I think she has the makings of a dictator! Hahahah!

Wah lucky she is not going into politics. So unlikely she will have her ways. But then she has her father's ears, so maybe i speak too soon...